Rebel base struck in south Somalia, Kenya troops

Sun Oct 23, 2011 3:14pm GMT

By Sahra Abdi and Abdi Sheikh

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - A fighter jet struck a rebel base near the militant-bastion port city of Kismayu on Sunday, as Kenyan and Somali troops edged closer to another town hoping to strike a quick blow against al Shabaab.

The al Qaeda-linked rebels, blamed by Nairobi for several kidnappings of foreigners on Kenyan soil, pose a significant security threat to the Horn of Africa region and Nairobi launched an air-and-ground offensive against them a week ago.

The rebels have reinforced their defences in the town of Afmadow, a strategic transit point for goods trafficked illegally through Kismayu, al Shabaab's centre of operations.

Somalia's Western-backed troops say the aim of the operation is to rid Kismayu of the militants, which if achieved, would wipe out their base for logistics and recruitment.

"A jet bombarded an al Shabaab base near the port. It dropped a huge shell, flew past, came and then dropped another shell," Kismayu resident Mahmoud Hassan told Reuters.

"The whole town shook. We've never heard anything like it. Everyone ran away," he said.

A labourer at the harbour said the militants had ordered people to run to their homes.

"Al Shabaab fighters deserted the port but besieged the areas around the base," Hared Ali told Reuters.   Continued...

Al Shabaab Islamist militants display weapons believed to be recovered from Burundian peacekeepers from the African Union suspected to have been killed during fighting in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, October 21, 2011. REUTERS/Feisal Omar
Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.